The show-car was actually quite different from the production version of the model
Exactly fifty years ago in the booth of Carrozzeria Bertone at the Geneva Motor Show, the Lamborghini Countach LP 500 made its first public appearance. While the main character in the Lamborghini’s exhibition space was the Miura SV, the ultimate version of the famous dream car that was at its launch. The unveil of new concept car, in yellow livery, was so successful that the company raced against time to satisfy the customers’ requests, while the car was featured in all the international automotive magazines.
Penned by Marcello Gandini. The Countach project, with internal code number LP112, where LP indicates the rear longitudinal position (“Longitudinale Posteriore” in Italian) of the 12-cylinder engine, stemmed from Ferruccio Lamborghini’s desire to maintain the image of a company at the forefront of style and technology following the Miura. Heading up this record-breaking achievement was engineer Paolo Stanzani, who had been with Lamborghini since 1963, and in 1968 was named General Manager and Technical Director. The low, clean and still now futuristic lines of the Countach were penned by Marcello Gandini, the design director of Carrozzeria Bertone. The designer was also responsible for the decision to use the scissor doors, which since that time have characterized the production of Lamborghini’s 12-cylinder models.
Birth of an icon. Following the LP 500’s success in the famous Motor Show, Lamborghini’s chief test driver Bob Wallace used the car – equipped with a more reliable 4-liter engine – for every possible kind of road test. The career of this extraordinary car ended at the beginning of 1974, when it was used for the crash tests required for the homologation of the production car and subsequently scrapped. The LP 500 was a substantially different car than the Countach that would go into production in 1974. It had a platform frame rather than a tubular one, it was equipped with a 12-cylinder 4971cc engine (one of a kind), the engine air intakes had a shark gill design, and inside it featured sophisticated electronic instrumentation.
A powerful name. The roots of the name of this model are in the dialect of the Piedmont region. In its final stages of assembly, the prototype was hidden in a shed for agricultural machinery on a farm near Grugliasco (province of Turin) to avoid possible work stoppages related to labor unrest, and was “discovered” by a farmer who exclaimed in amazement and enthusiasm, “Countach!” (a word in Piedmontese dialect expressing wonderment). When Piedmont-born Marcello Gandini became aware of the fact, he thought that this word had a particularly strong communicative force and also convinced Nuccio Bertone, Ferruccio Lamborghini and his colleague Paolo Stanzani of this. He wasn’t wrong: from 1974 to 1990, 1,999 Countachs in five different series were produced, representing a model that, in addition to ending up displayed on the bedroom walls of an entire generation and being used in dozens of films, allowed Lamborghini to survive the most difficult years of its history and to consolidate its name into the halls of legend.